Can Chickens Mow Your Lawn?

We love our chickens. We don’t dress them up or name them all but we love them just the same. They entertain us, give us enough eggs that even our dogs get a partially raw food diet, and they mow our lawn.

You read that right. Our chickens MOW OUR LAWN. That is the goal of our Swamp Flock.

A bit of background: We’re a middle-aged couple that moved from a one-bedroom condo in Houston, TX to five empty acres in the country. There was no water, electricity, or liveable buildings. With EVERYTHING to be done we realized (after we killed our wimpy riding mower trying to cut down acres of wild grasses) that it was either buy a real-deal tractor, pay to get it cut by a tractor owner, or….CHICKENS!

As first-time homesteaders, large, furry livestock seemed like a lot to jump into. Chickens, however, are a lot like cats with feathers at least when it comes to attitude and independence. They are the perfect starter animal for your homestead due to the low maintenance they require if you set them up with a sturdy, secure coop and and an ample ‘run’ or open area where your birds can be birds. Like I said before, if you can take care of a cat, you can take care of a chicken.

Our ‘South Side Guineas’ coop and run.

Chickens are fantastic at mowing down any greenery in their path. They get to pick and choose their favorite greens (our wetlands are rampant with crowd favorites Dandelions and Holy Basil) Any grasses or woodier plants chickens don’t care for are shredded, stomped, and ripped apart with the chicken’s large talons. When they finish their work all that’s left for us to do is chop down any saplings or palmettos that were hearty enough to survive the Swamp Flock. Chickens decimate insect populations and will even eat small rodents and other ‘pest’ animals if given the chance. And don’t forget, chickens fertilize as they roam keeping that self-sufficient cirle we are trying to create closer to closed. This rustic and natural level of care is perfect for most of our acreage and means the only lawn tools we need are a little push mower and a weed-eater.

Take note that chickens and other farm fowl will not have your yard looking like Pebble Beach Golf Course. As I said, I push a little red mower around our ‘proper’ yard near the house for that manicured effect, but our acres of wetland grasses go from thigh-high to toe-low after our birds have cleared a patch. The level the birds keep foliage at is enough to keep coyotes, feral hogs, and the myraid of smaller predators from hiding in our fields and that works for this homestead. We actually want out fields to look and work like the wetlands they are. Vegetation left on the wilder side will aborb and distribute the massive amounts of water we see during hurricane season and our wet, grey winters. We found mowing grasses down to a nice HOA-approved height caused water to pool up and hang out until evaporation, not absorbtion, was the key factor in water management. Evaporation is much slower and creates ample breeding time for mosquitos and other pests to breed out of control. Again, with our system, our chooks are acting as a landscaping crew, pest control, AND grocery store.

The other problem lawn-mowing chickens solve is the conundrum of what to do with an older hen past her laying years. Normally the most efficient thing to do is process those birds for the freezer but that’s easier said than done when you’ve raised your chickens up from eggs. With our system, even when our ladies decide they’re done laying eggs, they can still finish out their natural lives performing a valuable service for their humans. Sure, they’re eating up some feed, but we would much rather buy chicken feed than gas and oil and blades and belts and batteries…….Our chickens help us pull our self-reliant circle of life a little bit smaller and that’s the over-arcing goal of everything we do here.

Our flock of 50+/- chickens and guinea fowl are housed in four coops of different sizes. (we build new coops on the fly as our population expands) Most of our coops are enclosed in a 100ft x 50ft ‘run’ on the central north border of our land made of whatever fencing we could scrap up. It is not a true, secure run as there is no overhead protection. It’s merely to keep our chickens where we want them to mow.

NorthSide Chooks

Every morning the east gate of their yard is opened and our flock, starting at their home in the 12 o’clock position, work their way clockwise around the land with our properly fenced 100ft x 100ft ‘people’ yard being the inside boundary of their racetrack, if you will. They get corralled by more fences at the 8 o’clock position which gives them roughly four acres of free range.

With a flock of less than fifty we haven’t come anywhere near the maximum capacity our acreage can sustainably accomodate. Our goal is to maintain a large flock of healthy, happy birds feeding them only what we harvest from our wetlands. In addition to the aforementioned free-range lifestyle our chickens enjoy we raise soldier fly larvae and use live traps for other bugs for protien and soak and ferment the organic store-bought feed we do buy for maximum absorption and gut health. (yes, our chickens LOVE their Kombucha!) We also plan on planting high-protien grasses like Rye and Mombasa for harvest and chopped addition to the fermented feed.

In our next post I will lay out our current feeding program to show you how to feed your chickens an organic diet that’s high-quality and loaded with variety for less than 10 cents a day.